The Journal Gazette
Monday, February 03, 2020 1:00 am

For Ants' Hicks, Bryant left lasting impression

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Stephan Hicks may not play with the same style as Kobe Bryant did – despite a fallaway jumper from the top of the key that looked Bryant-like Saturday night – but Hicks will tell you just how much the late Los Angeles Lakers star impacted his life.

“I tried to do his patented post-up fadeaway shots, but that's tough,” Hicks said. “He was a great player. And you always just look up to a guy like that.”

Hicks, known more for his hustle, rebounding and defensive tenacity than pure scoring, grew up in Los Angeles idolizing Bryant, who died Jan. 26 along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

The tragedy has affected the entire sports world and it could certainly be felt at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, when the Mad Ants orchestrated the greatest comeback in G League history by rallying from 35 points down in the third quarter to beat the Canton Charge 124-118.

The Mad Ants had been on the other side of the previous greatest comeback, coughing up a 34-point lead to Lakeland in 2017.

There were tributes to Bryant throughout the game Saturday night, perhaps none as compelling as what Hicks and Daxter Miles Jr., two players who stated Bryant was their favorite player, did by scoring all their points in the second half.

Miles had 29 points. Hicks had 18. And the Mad Ants (14-15) won for the 11th time in 16 games.

When the Mad Ants play host to Raptors 905 (13-18) at 7 p.m. today, they have a chance to reach the .500 mark for the first time this season.

“For me, (Bryant) was huge,” Hicks said. “Growing up in L.A., we looked up to him and he's the reason why I play basketball. Growing up as a young child in L.A., when there was Shaq and Kobe, he was one of my heroes and I looked up to him. I always wanted to be like him and he was a big deal in my life.”

The Mad Ants acquired guard Scoochie Smith from the Charge on Sunday in exchange for the rights to Omari Johnson, who hadn't played for Fort Wayne this season.

Smith, who last played in Greece, averaged 12.2 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 46 games last season with Canton. He played at the University of Dayton from 2013 to 2017.

The Mad Ants expect to have Alize Johnson from the Indiana Pacers again today. Johnson had 19 points and 19 rebounds Saturday, giving him double-doubles in all nine G League games he's played this season. Walt Lemon Jr. had 29 points Saturday.

With 21 games remaining in the regular season, the Mad Ants' changes of winning the Central Division are about nil because they're 81/2 games back of the Wisconsin Herd. However, the Mad Ants are only 21/2 games back of Grand Rapids for the third and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“This was a game (Saturday) where we wanted to try and get back and start a streak going,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “These teams are tough, our division is tough. We've got to get over. 500 and make this push over the second half of the season.”

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